Ex-England footballer, John Fashanu has revealed the extents he went to prevent his elder brother, Justin Fashanu from coming out as gay. He said he paid him £75K to keep quiet about it.
The former Wimbledon striker made the shock admission a week after it emerged two top footballers – including an England star – plan to come out. In his first in-depth interview about brother Justin since his tragic suicide in 1998, he said:
“I begged him, I threatened him, I did everything I could possibly do to try and stop him coming out. I gave him the money because I didn’t want the embarrassment for me or my family. Had he come out now, it would be a different ball game. There wouldn’t be an issue, but there was then. Things are different now. Now he’d be hailed a hero.”
Justin Fashanu shot himself into the limelight with a stunning goal against Liverpool in 1980, Nottingham Forest subsequently shelled out a record £1million for him but he failed to hit the heights expected.
In a newspaper interview in 1990, he claimed to have had an affair with a married Tory MP he met in a gay bar. John, 53, said:
“I’ll never forget when Justin first told me. He called me in the evening time and said to me: ‘I’m gay’. Then he said to me: ‘I’m planning to go to a newspaper’. I said to him: ‘Oh heavens forbid... oh my God. We don’t need that. You’re mad’. He promised when I gave him the money he would not go out and say that. Two days later... bang... headlines in a newspaper. I looked like a sucker. For me and my family it was like Hiroshima or Nagasaki on our lives. It knocked us dead, it was a total shock.
“People might not like it, but I was trying to protect my family. You’ve got to remember the public’s perception of homosexuality at that time was that it was an abomination . It was taboo. Street boys were beating up gays in nightclubs. I give him credit for having the courage to come out and say it. But it caused a lot of confusion and animosity towards him, me, and my family.
“During matches, 30, 40, sometimes 45,000 supporters sang at me: ‘You’re big... you’re black... your a*** is up for grabs... Fashanu... Fashanu’. As a result of him saying what he said, my mother died because of the stress. She actually died a year later on the day of his birthday.
"She was already old, very fragile and suffering cancer. Then to be told her second eldest son was a homosexual was too much.”
John condemned Justin, then at Leyton Orient, soon after he came out and infamously said he would “not want to play or even get changed” in the same dressing room.
But last week John said:
“I’ve never spoken about these things before because I was stamped a homophobe. But things have changed and I make it very clear: I was wrong. It was ignorance on my behalf. I didn’t understand him. I was trying to protect my family and I was worried about the effect on my career. In the process I lost my brother and I am very sad about that.
“He committed suicide because he was so distraught the world would not accept a black man who was homosexual. I couldn’t understand it and I couldn’t accept it and so whatever relationship we had before was killed .
“Previous to that, we had been very close, but it just shattered everything. I didn’t speak to him again. There’s a lot of sadness and regrets.”
Two premier league stars including an England international are about to come out as gay and Fashanu says :
“If these young men feel it is the right time to come out and announce they are homosexual, please don’t anybody victimise them. Please be careful with words, don’t let it lead to the destruction of two men in their prime. I didn’t have that wisdom 20 years ago and it led to the destruction of my late brother Justin.
“We must accept them. I beg everybody not to make the same mistakes I made. Give them as much understanding as possible.”
John is a practising christian and he believes his brother was not actually gay, he credits his TV presenter daughter, Amal, 27 for helping him change his attitude.
“My daughter Amal is a very strong activist for gay rights,” said John, who now lives in Nigeria, where homosexuality is still illegal. She has helped me a lot to understand a lot more about another way of life, which homosexuality is. I love her and I am very proud of the way she speaks about her uncle.”